The Italian Almanac

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Preventing Alzheimer

Italian and United States researchers have discovered a mutated form of beta-protein that can prevent the development of Alzheimer`s disease, the most common form of dementia. Scientists at the Besta Institute, the Mario Negri Institute in Milan and the Nathan Kline Institute of Orangeburg have identified that a mutated form of beta-protein is able to block the production of the extracellular deposits in the brain, known as amyloid plaques, thought to cause Alzheimer`s.

``The research has identified a mutated form of beta-protein which has a surprising behaviour: it joins itself to normal beta-protein and blocks the formation of amyloid, and consequently the development of Alzheimer`s,`` said Fabrizio Tagliavini, director of the Besta Institute`s neurodegenerative disease department. So far the scientists have only seen the beta-protein at work in test tubes but they are now working on testing it on animals.

``It will take a long time (to see the effects in mammals) because we need to observe them for over a year,`` Tagliavini said. ``If everything goes as planned, it will take at least five years before we have a drug. But this is a promising beginning for a disease that currently has no cure,`` he said of the research, which has been published in Science.

Alzheimer`s currently affects 450,000 people in Italy and six million in Europe but is set to double by 2050 as the number of elderly grows.